The answer is really very simple. Religious self-effort always ends in sinful self-worship. What were the Galatians trying to do? They were trying to be justified by the works of the law. They wanted to follow God's law, but somehow had ended up quarreling and trying to devour each other.
Paul uses more than twelve different descriptions to describe their lack of love for each other. Things like envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and the list goes on. Chapters four and five of Galatians is a perfect description of trying to serve God in their own strength, and they failed miserably! All of their religious effort was a utter failure. They got caught up in what they did and ended in a more dangerous state than before. This state is more dangerous because when we get to this state we no longer see our wretched condition. We are caught up in what we do for God, and we have lost sight of what God wants to do for us.
This is a very heavy thought to me! Where am I? This is the question we must ask ourselves. Has my desire to live for Jesus and keep God's precious law led me to seek the Holy Spirit's presence in my life? Has this filling of the Holy Spirit filled my life with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Or has my desire to keep God's law become about what I am doing? Do I find my myself comparing my walk with Jesus to others walk? And if their walk does not agree with mine, do I find myself being judgmental, critical and
trying to make them live my way, in my church? There is a danger of it becoming about what we do for God; instead of what God can do in us and through us as we are filled by the Holy Spirit.
As we examine ourselves we may have to admit that what God begun in the Spirit has been derailed and jumped track. We may have to admit that our religious life has become more about us, and having it our way than about God's way and being led by the Holy Spirit. The great and glorious news is that when we can grasp our great need, and give up trying to live for Jesus by our human efforts. When we will wait on the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, then our Church will be the blessing in our community and in our families that we see in the early Church. Then our lives will demonstrate the love and joy and peace and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that God longs to pour out on us through the Holy Spirit. I long for that day! Next week we will look at what it means for you and me to yield to the Holy Spirit.